Too many plants

If you're like me, you like your planting beds full of plants. To me there's nothing stranger-looking than a bed with each plant surrounded by its own little "neutral zone" of mulch. Yes, there is plenty of room for growth. Yes, that reduces competition between plants. Yes, it improves airflow to minimize fungal and other problems. Yes, it looks weird.


I prefer my plants all packed together. There's a limit though, and in some of my beds that limit has been surpassed. In some areas it looks like I was growing delicious sprouts for my salads, tiny plants all packed together, but then forgot about them and let almost every plant grow. Time to take action.


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Here's one example, a raised bed that hasn't been cleaned up yet this year:


It's on the south side of my house, right outside the kitchen window. I've got a few perennials in here...


...some Sage, Liatris, Echinacea (just planted last year), thyme, Rudbeckia. Also a few different annuals.

Right now the plant that's dominating the box is Rudbeckia triloba, a wonderful late-bloomer that always gets much bigger than I remember. It also reseeds like all Rudbeckia though, and this year it seems like every seed germinated.



I'm going to remove every single one of these seedlings. If some of them yank out of the soil nicely I may pot those up, and I believe my neighbor wanted a couple of them either for his yard or for his school's wildflower garden, but most are headed for the compost pile. Like I say when somebody asks about a plant like this: "how many dozen do you want?"

You may be familiar with some of the different Rudbeckias ("Black-Eyed Susan"), but triloba is a little different. It creates many smaller blooms on tall, branching stems later in the summer. It's also called "Brown-Eyed Susan" for some reason -- the "eyes" are as dark as the other Rudbeckias. If you're wondering how it got its latin name, it's pretty simple:

Three lobes on the leaves: "triloba"

I'm not going to show any "action shots" of me yanking out handfuls of these seedlings. Even those who only casually garden know what weeding looks like.

At first I thought I had found the reason for so many seedlings here:


But then I realized that seedhead is from Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', a perennial that's reseeded its way up into this raised bed from down below:

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', a perennial.

I did eventually find some triloba seedheads that were still around though:


I leave those seeds intact through the winter for the birds, but maybe I need to rethink that strategy a little bit. Either that or just start weeding out the unwanted seedlings earlier in the year.

There are some "regular" weeds in here too. Like dandelion, which
grew right next to my new coneflowers -- in two different places!

After removing this overpowering mass of greens is was able to see all of the plants that were underneath, some of which I had forgotten about:

Liatris spicata. One of the first perennials I planted.

Callirhoe involucrata, "winecups" or "poppy mallow".

winecups seedlings are in here too!

Also down here on the ground beneath the parent plant!
I'm hoping to defeat the deer and rabbits with quantity.

This is the first Gaura I've ever had overwinter! I left the
tag so I'd know where the plant died, but it didn't! Yahoo!

So here's the bed all cleaned up:

Notice that I'm not worried about getting every single leaf out.

A few more weeks and this will be a solid mass of green again, but from the plants that I want here. I just have to wait for the sage to start blooming, then the winecups and liatris (which actually isn't the best color combination I've seen), coneflowers... ooh, this bed is going to be exciting!

I actually collected some winecups and triloba seedlings last year and potted them up -- still looking for a place for these:

Potted "backup" plants in case the herbivores remove the others.


If you're interested in some free Rudbeckia triloba, a native plant in much of the US, please let me know in the comments. I think I have some seeds left too. (US residents only - sorry!)

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anne  – (April 27, 2011 at 9:17 AM)  

I planted a few triloba left over from a job last year and I like them so much more than black eyed susan (I had one which I pulled out). I'm waiting to see how many seedlings I get but I haven't noticed too many yet.

PlantPostings  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:25 PM)  

This is a fun post -- taking us through your "thinning out" process. Lots of fun plants in there!

Bom  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:47 PM)  

I'm more of the "jungle" persuasion and so I actually prefer your packed look and hope to see your solid green again soon.

Janet  – (April 28, 2011 at 4:01 AM)  

I also subscribe to the pack-them-in/self seeding school of gardening. I know it horrifies visitors of the "tidy" persuasion...

Sheila  – (April 28, 2011 at 11:55 AM)  

I love self-seeding plants. It's yet another reason not to import mulch to the yard and smother the ground - you miss out on new plants. And with nursery perennials approaching $9 per plant in my area this year, you gotta love the self-seeders! Nice to see another gardening with a similar philosophy :)

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